Invocation: Faith & Blue Virtual Day of Prayer
For the past nine years I’ve been the Executive Director of the Interfaith Council of Central Florida. During that time, I’ve interacted extensively with fellow Christians from a broad range of denominations. I’ve also worked closely with an array of non-Christian faith traditions. In addition, I’ve worked side by side with subscribers to various forms of humanism. And I’ve come to deeply appreciate all who make up this highly diverse mix that I’ve just described.
So when I offer invocations in government-organized, tax-funded situations, I choose to use a form and style that provides maximum inclusion and minimum exclusion. In that spirit, I invite you to join me in reflecting on the challenge our community and our law-enforcement agencies face at this time.
Consider with me the following wish list:
May we as a community recognize that law enforcement is essential to our individual and collective wellbeing. Every community needs an effective police force.
May we realize that the job of law enforcement can and should provide officers with a sense of deep satisfaction for playing such an essential role in our community.
May we understand that the role of the police is demanding, entails great risk and subjects officers to considerable stress. It’s never easy to have to tell people that what they’re doing is illegal or poses a threat to themselves or to others—so they must cease and desist.
May we, in our relations with the police, grasp the general truth that what we dish out to others will typically be returned in kind. Disrespect and insult beget disrespect and insult.
May we as individuals and as a community become so skilled in expressing appreciation for the good things we see the police doing daily, that when we need to seriously address something that’s not so good, there will be a readiness to consider our concerns.
May the public be willing to reconsider their at-times-impossible range of expectations of police, and may police be willing to consider the possibility that certain expectations they have of their own role may need modification.
May police officers understand the ugly reality that there are groups within our society who have faced generational disdain, disenfranchisement and discrimination—and understanding this, may they seek to go the second and third mile in trying to ensure that such treatment is not perpetuated.
May police officers be slow to employ physical force, and extremely slow to employ lethal force.
May the Orlando Chief of Police be commended for speaking out unequivocally against the legal and moral travesty perpetrated against George Floyd, and may he and his fellow officers in the OPD be commended for taking seriously the concerns that have been raised in recent months.
May the discussions and deliberations that ensue from the initiatives of the OPD be comprehensive, candid and in a spirit of cooperation and collegiality.
Finally, whatever our motivation—whether it be our religious faith, a secular philosophy or merely a recognition of the practicalities of human interaction—may we all, whether law-enforcement officers or general populace, commit ourselves to listening to the perspective of others, to sharing our own perspective, to relentlessly wrestling with the issues until a course of action emerges that has addressed the concerns of all, has treated all with dignity and respect, and gives us all a sense of fulfillment and accomplishment, because it has indeed produced “a more perfect union” between the public and the police.
May this be our collective wish and our collective achievement.
James Coffin is Executive Director of the Interfaith Council of Central Florida.